Liverpool star 'saved goals by instinct'

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The Independent Online
The former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar failed to fix two Premier League soccer matches because his instincts as a professional athlete took over and he made a series of "blinding" saves, a court was told yesterday.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court was shown video extracts showing how Mr Grobbelaar, 38, now with Plymouth Argyle, made the saves while playing for Liverpool in two matches against Manchester United and Norwich City in 1994. Both matches were drawn.

David Calvert Smith, QC, prosecuting, said Mr Grobbelaar told his friend Christopher Vincent of his dilemma after being asked to throw matches so that a Far Eastern syndicate could bet safely on the outcomes. The court heard Mr Grobbelaar had said "I'm my own worst enemy on that point because I know I do not like to lose. It's instinctive."

Mr Calvert Smith added the goalkeeper told Mr Vincent that he had lost the chance to earn pounds 125,000 from the syndicate because of the 3-3 draw with Manchester United on 4 January.

The prosecution said Mr Grobbelaar, who with the former professional footballers John Fashanu and former Wimbledon goalkeeper Hans Segers, is accused of corruptly trying to influence football games, told Mr Vincent in a taped interview how he had done his best to affect the Manchester United result: "In the second half I made a two blinding saves, because I was diving the wrong way ... it hit my hand."

The video extract showed the goalkeeper stopping shots from the United players Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane. Another extract showed Mr Grobbelaar saving against the Norwich City striker Jeremy Goss in a 2-2 draw. Mr Grobbelaar reportedly told Mr Vincent that the ball had simply hit his feet.

The jury also saw how Mr Grobbelaar failed to save a shot while playing for Southampton in September 1994 against Coventry, a game his side won 3-1. They heard that the goalkeeper explained "I pushed the ball into the back of the net ... and then we came and steamrollered [them]."

Mr Grobbelaar, a Zimbabwean international, Mr Fashanu, 33, a former Wimbledon and Aston Villa striker, and a Malaysian businessman, Heng Suan Lim, 31, all deny giving or receiving money for influencing the outcome of football matches in a corrupt conspiracy, or using the money as a reward. The Dutch- born Mr Segers, 34, Mr Fashanu and Mr Lim deny a similar charge. Mr Grobbelaar denies a separate charge of accepting pounds 2,000 from Mr Vincent as an inducement or reward to influence a match, in a "sting" operation carried out by the Sun newspaper.

Mr Calvert Smith said the newspaper had taped Mr Grobbelaar, in conversation with Mr Vincent, during which his alleged admissions were made. The frequency of telephone calls between Mr Grobbelaar and Mr Lim - allegedly the representative of the betting syndicate - just before and after matches showed the operation of what Mr Calvert Smith described as a "corrupt scheme". He said there was evidence that the night before the Norwich game Mr Grobbelaar crept out of the team hotel to meet Mr Lim at the Hilton hotel in Park Lane, London, to receive pounds 500 to "cover expenses".

It was important, to the case, said Mr Calvert Smith, that there was evidence of a cooling off between Mr Lim and Mr Grobbelaar after the goalkeeper's failure to help Liverpool lose against Manchester United and Norwich.

The alleged scandal only came to light after the Sun published its allegations made by Mr Vincent. The case continues.

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